Local Government Response to Public Record Requests: Ensuring Compliance With FOIA and State Public Record Laws

Navigating Impact of Evolving Technology on Public Record Requests, Balancing Transparency Against Privacy in Response Protocols

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A


Conducted on Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Recorded event now available


This CLE webinar will provide guidance to municipal attorneys on developing and administering effective policies and procedures regarding public record requests. The panel will discuss the latest developments in federal, state and local laws addressing public access to government records, the impact of new and evolving technology in this area, and best practices for balancing government transparency against privacy concerns when designing response protocols.

Description

When municipalities receive requests from citizens or entities to review and copy public documents they created or have custody of, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and comparable state laws mandate specific actions or responses. Failure to respond to requests for access to public records is unlawful.

Evolving technology and a corresponding surge in the volume of requests over the past decade has municipalities grappling with how to stay in compliance with the law in this area.

To minimize compliance missteps, local governments must develop and maintain policies and procedures outlining how to respond to public record requests for council meeting minutes, local ordinances, budgets, policies, audits and similar documents. The policies should clearly define what constitutes a “public record” subject to disclosure, the types of information exempt from disclosure, and a “reasonable amount of time” to respond to public record requests.

In creating and implementing such policies, municipal attorneys must balance the public interest in government transparency and openness against legitimate privacy and other confidentiality concerns.

Listen as our authoritative panel of municipal attorneys discusses their perspectives and recommended best practices for responding to public record requests without violating FOIA or related state laws.

Outline

  1. Impact of evolving technology on public records requests—email, social media, etc.
  2. Developing and maintaining policies and procedures—best practices
  3. Balancing transparency vs. privacy
  4. Dealing with requests involving government trade secrets or confidential information

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How has the growing use of technology impacted requests for access to public records?
  • What are the components of an effective municipal policy for responding to requests for public records?
  • How have municipalities balanced the public right to transparency against privacy concerns in implementing procedures for responding to public record requests?

Faculty

Kevin D. Batt, Counsel
Anderson & Kreiger, Boston

Mr. Batt represents public clients in general municipal, land use, environmental, energy and construction matters. Recently, he has concentrated in helping towns and school districts site renewable energy projects to power municipal buildings and schools. Mr. Batt combines 15 years of experience in these areas with extensive in-house experience from years developing and implementing energy and environmental programs as conservation manager of the City of Austin, Tex.

Gary W. Schons, Of Counsel
Best Best & Krieger, San Diego

As head of the firm’s Government Policy & Public Integrity practice, Mr. Schons counsels public agencies, officials and private businesses who wish to promote public confidence in their decision-making processes by ensuring that official conduct is above reproach. Mr. Schons is a former deputy district attorney and senior advisor for law & policy in the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. In this role, he advised the District Attorney and her executive staff on legal, public integrity, legislative and policy issues and provided legal assistance to all 300 deputy district attorneys in the office.


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